Florida shooter appears in court

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Hector Romero Assistant Public Defender (L) and Melisa McNeill, Public Defender (R) are seen on screen at the first appearance in court for high school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz (C) at Broward County Court.

MIAMI - The former student accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school appeared in court on Monday for a procedural hearing, his first public appearance since he was held without bond on charges of premeditated murder.

Nikolas Cruz, dressed in orange prison garb, sat with his head bowed during the brief hearing before Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The hearing dealt with whether to unseal a defence motion related to access to their client, a minor point in what is certain to be a lengthy prosecution and trial.

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Cruz, 19, has been charged on 17 counts of premeditated murder, one each for the students and staff who were shot to death Wednesday during a killing spree at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Florida.

He was remanded in custody without bail at a hearing on Thursday, following his arrest the day of the shootings.

Cruz was able to legally buy an AR-15 assault rifle despite numerous red flags that a succession of agencies, including the FBI failed to act upon.

A profile has emerged of a deeply troubled young man who was expelled from the school last year for "disciplinary reasons."

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His adoptive mother died in November and he had been living with the family of a high school friend who told interviewers they had no inkling of his violent tendencies.

"I told him there&39;d be rules and he followed every rule to the T," James Snead, 48, an army veteran and military intelligence analyst, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"We had this monster living under our roof and we didn&39;t know," said Kimberly Snead, 49, a nurse.

"We didn&39;t see this side of him."